I just watched Obama’s first official State of the Union address. I thought he did a pretty good job, but it certainly wasn’t as memorable as some of his speeches in the past. I also thought it demonstrated his continued move to the political center, which doesn’t particularly thrill me.

Tom ForemanBut this post isn’t about Obama, or the speech, really. It’s about CNN, and my pal Tom Foreman, whom I’ve written about before, as I’m sure you’ll recall. (Sure, I’m sure.)

Wolf Blitzer told us that CNN’s great and powerful political team was going to be fact checking Obama’s speech. First he cut to Ali Velshi to discuss Obama’s claims about how many jobs have been created or saved by the stimulus, and Velshi was very clear from the outset: we don’t know.

Next Wolf introduced Foreman, who was posted at one of CNN’s touchscreen monitors (which I believe they still refer to as “magic”). Foreman’s monitor was filled by a form containing four checkboxes:

  • True
  • Somewhat True
  • Somewhat False
  • False

Foreman introduced video of this section of the address:

Let me repeat: we cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95% of working families. We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college. As a result, millions of Americans had more to spend on gas, and food, and other necessities, all of which helped businesses keep more workers. And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.

We cut back to Foreman, ready for the truth, and he, putting a big X in the “True” box, said something to the effect of “Surprisingly, that’s true.” I was shocked. Even with the “surprisingly” or the “believe it or not” or whatever word or phrase Foreman used, he put that X in the True box. Wow.

Then he pointed out that some folks would argue that giving tax credits to people who make so little that they don’t actually pay taxes shouldn’t really count as tax cuts, and that some might say that a one-time reduction in taxes isn’t exactly a tax cut per se. Then he added an X to the “Somewhat False” box.

He marked two of the four boxes in response to one question. So CNN’s crack fact checking team has determined that Obama’s statement regarding tax cuts is both true and somewhat false.

That’s not fact checking. It’s pointing out that people with different opinions are going to come to different conclusions. Why bother calling it “fact checking” if you’re just going to tell us that?

No wonder I never watch CNN anymore.

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